Saturday, October 8

Tools of the workbench review: The Xuron Professional Modeller’s Tool Kit

When my last set of sprue cutters died and tried to “de-eye” me in the process I thought time to “get Zerious” as Arnold would say and invest in some new sprue cutters and P/E scissors – I also needed some Ad-hoc P/E bending tools – in this set from Xuron I think I have met my match! I have been using these for several months to fully test them out and to give a proper assessment of their usefulness.
Over the last four months I have road tested them against their nemesis – plastic – metal – rubber, wire, brass (and of course paper  :-) ) – I have taken pics of this set in use and four months down the track – read on to see if they met the challenge to see if it’s worth spending money on something you could just as easily “liberate” from work (or your dad’s tool shed)….

The handy wrap the tools come in
Kit No: TK3200
Kit type: Professional Modeller’s cutting Tool Kit
Available from:  Xuron and their Distributors 
This set contains our #9180ET Pro. Photo Etch Scissors, #2175ET Pro. Sprue Cutter and #450 Tweezer Nose Pliers. 
Up until recently I have spent my whole modelling life downsizing and upgrading. When I started painting my first kit I used tins of paint from dad’s collection in the garage – I mixed gloss to match the greys and greens on my Harrier GR3, and silver auto spray to match my Mustang “Dooleybird” I wish I had photos to show you them now - not the best of modelling by a long chalk – I sure did make a mess of them!

I used a box cutting knife to and a large pair of dad’s pliers to cut my kit from the sprues and to trim off the plastic parts of the sprues. I used any sandpaper I could find to sand down the kits I had and once I even used turps to clean a plastic canopy – Oops! The glue I started out with was found by my mum and it was the blue stuff we used to join plastic pipes together.
I have since then – like life and technology moved on, since I started buying my own tools I have gotten better equipment as it has been released, better glues – finer sandpaper, proper thin paint and an airbrush to go with it for that professional look, even some smaller DIY snips form the hardware shop.

 i thought i would show you a straight cut on this rounded surface
Now amongst all of these essential tools I have upgraded to I still thought that I could do better with the sprue cutters than the ones I had – I also didn’t have anything to cut very fine pieces of sprue and photo etch materials – let alone bend the P/E! I was after a better solution.

The last sprue cutter I had prior to the Xuron was bought for around £40 – I had ordered it from a specialist company on line who had nothing to do with modelling, the snipping end though was small and fine and they were light and easy to use – if a little prone to jamming up. I soon learned my lesson about the jamming when one day when I could not cut something plastic, the action stopped and then all of a sudden I felt a SNIP noise and a small part of the cutting blade hit my chest! The action had caught the other side of the snip and snapped off – I counted my lucky stars I still had two eyes and was very glad to receive the replacement Xuron snips coincidentally the next week in the post.

I had to stop using them for everything else i shouldn't have :-)
To my rescue came Xuron. I had long since looked at getting some really professional cutters for modelling; I had a “pretty good” pair that cut fairly flush to the model’s face without ripping any plastic out or leaving any extra to remove. I wanted to however try these as so many modellers had talked about them in a positive way. I got this set from Xuron – called the Xuron Professional Modeller’s Tool Kit – These three tools came in a handy blue folding material case that housed all three tools safely and conveniently (and which also looked pretty good) You can buy these tools separately so I thought I would look at them that way as well.

I thought I would put all three tools included through their paces. Ill start with each one of these tools and their selling points. Then to pictures of them “in action” over the last few months I have been using them. Starting with the most important tool a modeller can have – a sprue cutter.

Please do take into account these sets are now four months old - i wanted to show you any wear and tear through normal everyday modelling use - i hope this helps.

Xuron 2175ET Professional Sprue Cutter

The sales blurb...

·         Designed for scale modellers by a scale modeller
·         Long low profile cutting jaw for hard to reach cuts.
·         Large, comfortable grip for ease of use.
·         Patented Micro-Shear blade bypass action for smooth, clean, close cuts with no effort or pinching.

After 4 months of road testing these look pretty good still
Now I found these snips a little larger looking than my last pair – but a lot more durable looking which was primarily my concern after my last set failed on me! Looks can be deceiving though as the ends of these snips are the thinnest I have seen. The cutting action is very smooth and in the last few builds I have done over the past four months have never seized or jammed on me. They have cut everything I have asked them to and the fine tip can get into lots of the smaller nooks and crannies which are all too prevalent on modern kits nowadays – even in larger scales which I prefer modelling in.

I can cut up  flush on this clear plastic without worrying about scarring or cracking it.
The orange rubber handles are not slippery and fit to the hand pretty comfortably. The large perceived size of these is primarily from a longer set of handles which makes the action of the snips easy to use and not fatiguing even after a full day at the bench working away. The cut achieved is more of a “shearing” action which enables a very fine cut of the plastic and less of the sprue left over after the cut is made. You can also turn the snips around if you want a 45 degree cut with them if you want to play it on the safe side.
As we all do I have cheated a little on the economy of my tools and occasionally used them on wire and tin, to which they performed admirably and went through “like a knife through butter” (in that guy from the movie “Snatch” ‘s British accent) I have been pretty inseparable from my orange handled snips since then. Every now and again I when I have not had them on hand I have forgone using other snips in order to find these – which is a telling statement in itself.

Xuron 9180ET Professional Photo Etch Scissor

The sales pitch...
·         Long, ultra-sharp tip easily nips off delicate, tightly spaced parts on PE fret.
·         Large, curved ergonomic handle fits comfortably into your palm, giving you greater stability for precision cutting.
·         Precision ground scissor blades create smooth, clean cuts with no effort and without pinching or twisting.
Never owning a set of these pliers before but having something like them has left these with a real gap to fill in my modelling. I have long wanted something to get at and cut very fine Photo Etch from the sheets of multimedia kits which seem to be like trying to cut into a jig-saw sometimes.
While these thin long and very fine snips are recommended for use on Photo etch only these do sometimes double up as the best pair of decal snips you have ever used! When working with Photo Etch I have found these “scissors” to be flawless. In their main task – you can cut your way into the smallest of openings and along the narrowest of gaps to get at difficult to remove pieces.

I had great success using these on my 1/48th P/E sheet of the Fw 189 – I could not for the life of me get at the part and because of the tiny nature of the part. The Xuron photo etch scissors are so thin at the cutting end that I was able to  cut my way into the sheet to get at the part without having to cheat and to bend the piece out which I could have damaged.
Before this I used to use a scalpel or a regular sprue cutter which sometimes almost bounced of the brass sheet! Since using them I find them so fine and easy to use I have to stop myself from using them on things I shouldn’t!

The old and the new - i ditched my scalpel after using these PE Scissors
Again the handles are large and easy for anyone to operate. With the rubber-like grips that are non-slip – a handy thing for these hard of sight like myself is that the handles of each of these are different colours. So they are easy to spot in a crowded toolbox. That is two from three tools I have supplanted from my old bunch – let’s look at the third in the toolkit now – the 450/450S Tweezernose Pliers.

Combined with the bending tool below you can cut and form most parts of small PE

450/450S Tweezernose™ Pliers

The sales pitch...

The ultimate needle nose pliers. Six separate milling operations on each plier's nose ensure the blades match in size, shape and alignment. Tweezernose™ pliers combine the precision to pick up a human hair with the strength required for wire forming operations. Cushioned Xuro-Rubber™ grips and our Light Touch™ return spring speed use, enhance control and make the pliers more comfortable in your hand. Available with either smooth jaws (450) or with micro-serrations (450S) for an improved grip. This tool belongs in your customers' tool boxes regardless of their area of modelling expertise.
These needle nose (Tweezernose™) pliers have a long light blue handles of the “Xuro-Rubber™” patented non-slip handles that are easy to use and handle. They could adapt to larger or smaller hands than mine and are often faster and handier to use than a proper P/E Bending press.
Making two control throttles
I used these Tweezernose pliers as you can see in this photo sequence when building a few of my kits – you can see here that I have used them in the fine forming of 1/48th rudder harnesses and in making a control throttle from holding the part and dipping it into superglue. I didn’t need to use my hold and fold at all with this kit which did save me a great amount of time – I was able to form and shape all of these parts in just minutes.
The back of the pliers are rounded so that helped me with the bending process as well. The thin nose enables you to hold and to bend the thinner and smaller parts that are mostly the majority of the Photo Etch you get with kits

In conclusion this set has filled a massive gap in my modelling tool arsenal. For not much money I have a great set of tools which I know will last me for years. The tools each have their specific uses but can be used for other things (I have to stop myself from using them around the house) but for modelling I think by reading this review you have worked out how good they are as a set and individually.

They will now always be part of my toolkit – and that is the best accolade isn’t it?

These are available at the Xuron website and from their distributors worldwide